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Phideaux - Doomsday Afternoon CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.22 | 972 ratings

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5 stars Combining a healthy respect for early pioneers of prog with a modern sensibility, Phideaux has produced a work that surpasses most of his inspiration in terms of listenability, songwriting, vocals, and arranging. "Doomsday Afternoon" is nothing if not eclectic, with its compelling mix of folk, progressive and space rock with a thematically classical sensibility that never wavers for 60+ minutes. It is enjoyable from the first listen, but continues to impress over the long haul.

The opener "Micro SoftDeathStar" really lays it all out in its 11 minutes: plaintive vocals, orchestration, sparkling melodies, and a sense of foreboding that never oppresses. The changes of pace are crisp and purposeful without being jarring, and many of the themes we will hear later are introduced here both lyrically and musically. Phideaux is part Al Stewart like raconteur and part Roger Waters' doomsayer, uniting the yin and yang, and his use of several female singers in both lead and supporting roles adds further depth in that department. The fact that they are actually singing words also places "Doomsday Afternoon" at an advantage over those who would have them simply wail away like sirens or banshees. "The Doctrine of Eternal Ice Part 1" is a brief but potent instrumental with both piano and synthesizer to the fore, reminding me of some of Eloy's best work, which is a comparison I can't help making here and there. Even if Phideaux was not directly inspired by the German band, the point of reference holds, but I think his more tasteful approach would have a wider appeal on this site than Frank Bornemann's group. "Candybrain" is an acoustic oriented song that plays like a folk anthem but with greater complexity. The dystopian story line is really driven home here, but never at the sacrifice of musicality, which includes well placed flute and hand claps. "Crumble Part 1" introduces one of the most memorable tunes of the work, this time instrumentally, mostly on piano with the backing of other keyboards. "The Doctrine of Eternal Ice Part 2" is an 8 minute piece that really closes out "Side 1" if you will. It builds up from a slow plodding meditation to a vitriolic, but never harsh, rant before calming down into a gentler return to earlier themes. One of my favourite aspects of this disk is how it conveys so much power without needing to resort to anything approaching hard rock or metallic histrionics

"Thank you for the Evil" is probably the most overtly Floydian track (more "The Wall" era than anything), with an Alan Parsons Project type vibe as well. It also reminds me of Quebecois Daniel Gauthier's excellent album "Above the Storm". The track is repetitive in all the right ways, hypnotic even, and you will be hard pressed to avoid repeating some of the more dramatic parts in your mind's studio. "A Wasteland of Memories" is a beautiful and brief orchestral piece, followed by the vocal version of "Crumble". A certain creativity is revealed in the vocal interpretation of the sweet melody. The backing is identical to part 1; in fact this version is exactly the same length. Introduced by mellow flute and other accompaniment, "Formaldehyde" is one of the strongest and prettiest songs on the disk, with a very folk like structure in which the flute weaves about. The intensity picks up about halfway through, with some fine harmonies and interplays. The closer, "Microdeath Softstar", is the longest track and forms an excellent recapitulation of the various themes previously introduced, including those on "Candybrain". The orchestra is prominent here, and in particular the stringed instruments shine, but the vocalists also work their magic in tandem and solo.

I don't have any trouble rating this one 5 stars, and pointing out the irony that, with albums like this, doomsday for sensitive yet powerful progressive rock may be much farther off than we could have dreamed.

kenethlevine | 5/5 |


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